MISSOULA Sixteen students and 12 judges participated in the third annual scholarship sales competition, hosted by Northwestern Mutual, at the University of Montana in October.

“The quality of the presentations was the best we’ve ever seen,” said Michael Butler, Northwestern Mutual development Officer. “Students were professional, well-prepared and demonstrated a high degree of poise and maturity.” 
Each finalist played the role of salesperson representing a company selling telecom solutions. The “buyer” represented a regional-sized financial services firm with an outdated phone system. Presenters built rapport with the buyer and worked to create sales presentations that could overcome objections. 
After two rounds of sales presentations, three winners were selected by a panel of experts that included UM School of Business Administration professors and community business leaders. 
Students were evaluated in seven categories: approach, needs identification, product/service, overcoming objections, close, communication skills and overall performance.  
On Oct. 26, Northwestern Mutual sponsored an awards luncheon at the UM Canyon Club to honor all participants and judges and recognize the outstanding performances of the three winners.
Scholarship funds doubled this year from $2,000 to $4,000. Northwestern Mutual awarded a $2,500 first-prize scholarship to Aerionna Hardesty, a $1,000 second prize to Tatem Hoehn and a $500 third-prize scholarship to Baylee Bergman.
The top two competitors will represent UM in the National Collegiate Sales Competition this spring at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. They will compete against students from over 70 universities across the country. 
The NCSC is the largest and oldest sales role-play competition in existence. Participants come from the most elite sales programs located at universities around the world.
“The competition is a great way for students to get practical experience,” Butler said. “Plus, it gives them good insights into what sales and marketing is all about.  Whether you win or not, it’s a valuable educational tool.”